Almost half the people shot at by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies after reaching toward their waistbands turned out to be unarmed, reports the Los Angeles Times. “Waistband shootings” are particularly controversial because the justification for the shootings can conceivably be fabricated after the fact, according to a new report by the county monitor, that analyzed six years of shooting data.
The monitor was careful to point out that the report wasn’t indicating that deputies were being dishonest, simply that those shootings left the department vulnerable to criticism. Merrick Bobb, who was hired as a special counsel to county supervisors after a 1992 report exposed serious problems in the department, also found an increase in shootings in which deputies didn’t see an actual gun before firing. In those cases, the suspects may have had a weapon but never brandished it. Those shootings jumped from nine in 2009 to 15 last year, according to the report. Last year also saw the highest proportion of people shot by deputies who turned out to be unarmed altogether.